UK universities may reject cash from Nigerian students over money laundering

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Manchester University, a popular choice of Nigerian students
Manchester University, a popular choice of Nigerian students

Nigerian students paid £1.5 million in cash to UK universities as fees between 2015 and 2019, amid suspicions over money laundering.

According to the report £52million of fees were paid in cash by some students during the same period.

And the universities face accusations of aiding money launderers from ‘high-risk’ countries.

The paper money from students was accepted by at least 49 universities in the UK spanning the past five years, with China noted as the country whose students paid the most cash.

Essex University received £5.4million in notes, followed by Manchester University at £5million, Surrey at £3.2million, Wolverhampton at £2.8million and Nottingham at £1.8million.

Durham University also took £440,000, with £200,000 being paid by Chinese students, and Strathclyde University in Glasgow received £700,000 in cash.

Since 2015, universities accepted £7.7million from Chinese students, followed by £1.8million from Indian students, £1.2million from Pakistani students and £1.5million from Nigerian students, according to The Times’ freedom of information request.

Security experts branded the move a ‘welcome mat for kleptocrats’, saying universities that accept cash are highly at risk of concealing the proceeds of crime.

Matthew Page, a fellow at international affairs think tank Chatham House, said: ‘Any educational institution that accepts cash payments is essentially putting out a welcome mat for the world’s kleptocrats and money launderers.

‘Universities that accept cash are at high risk of laundering the proceeds of crime, corruption and other illicit activities.’

Chris Greany, an ex-national coordinator for economic crime, said: ‘It is known that cash payments from many of the countries mentioned here are sometimes linked to money laundering and other criminal enterprises, so cash-based payments need proper scrutiny and accountability, but there is no good reason for them at all.’

He questioned why cash payments are still acceptable for universities, pointing out that bank notes can no longer be used to buy a car, flight or hotel room.

In 2019, the niece of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was forced to give up the contents of her UK bank account after receiving £150,000 from relatives while studying in London.

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